Business engagement in the fight to advance nondiscrimination policies and prevent anti-LGBTQ bills from becoming law is more important now than ever before. In fact, businesses have become some of the most powerful and committed proponents of nondiscrimination measures. These policies are vital for attracting and retaining top talent, fostering innovation, and maintaining and growing economic competitiveness.
That’s why we’ve seen a surge of state business coalitions in recent years, many of them with FFAA as a founding partner. These coalitions represent thousands of employers, and give corporate America and small business owners a voice on the clear business case for nondiscrimination. It’s also why businesses are speaking up for nationwide nondiscrimination, to harmonize protections across their operations and to put an end to divisive, harmful, unnecessary, and costly state battles over discriminatory policies.
It’s time to harness and centralize the power of business engagement through a coordinated, national coalition.
That’s why we developed America Competes as a central organizing platform for businesses looking to engage externally on issues of nondiscrimination. Businesses participating in America Competes get real-time legislative analysis; strategic guidance on where and when to engage in advocacy efforts; and the best messaging, social media support and research available. Businesses also get connections to state business coalitions all over the country – an essential component for rapid response in a fast-moving environment.
While business leaders and economic development experts have been arguing for years that discriminatory measures have tangible negative impacts on economic conditions, that fact is now indisputable. Experts have tracked economic fallout from discriminatory bills and laws in a number of states in recent years. And study after study shows that nondiscrimination laws that include LGBTQ people would benefit state and national economies by creating jobs, fostering innovation, eliminating an unnecessary patchwork of protections across states, and boosting competitiveness for tourism business.
In a competitive war for talent, highly educated workers who are LGBTQ or who have LGBTQ family members can vote with their feet, putting businesses that operate in cities and states without nondiscrimination protections at a comparative disadvantage. This is true for attracting and retaining talent, as well as for multi-state businesses that need to move employees across their operations. And employment nondiscrimination is not enough on its own: because workers and their families live and participate in their communities, they need to know that they can seek housing and participate in daily life without fear of discrimination based on who they are. These talent impacts extend to non-LGBTQ people, too: with 83% of Americans supportive of nondiscrimination laws, it’s clear that most people expect workplaces and communities to be inclusive and welcoming to everyone.
- A 2020 study in Texas found that the Lone Star State could add 180,000 jobs – largely in tech and tourism – in just four years, if it were to enact a statewide nondiscrimination law.
- A 2013 Detroit Chamber of Commerce study found that 38% of Michigan’s college-educated “brain drain” is moving to more LGBTQ-inclusive states
- A 2016 study found that Florida can boost its total economic output by $5.46 billion over the next 10 years, linked to the creation of 35,759 new jobs, by enacting nondiscrimination legislation to boost its attractiveness to skilled and innovative labor. Florida’s productivity would grow by $3.46 billion in gross product over a 10-year period.
- A conservative calculation of Florida losses due to the absence of nondiscrimination protections—based on lost productivity and turnover alone—reduces the collective bottom line in Florida by more than $362 million annually
Innovation and talent travel hand-in-hand, because when people can bring their full selves to work and to their communities, they can contribute everything they have to offer.
- A 2016 peer-reviewed study published in Management Science found a causal effect: when a state passes employment nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, more innovators move into the state. Those innovators file more patents than people leaving the state, and the firms headquartered in those see an 8% increase in the number of patents they file
- In 2019, the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said that bias and discrimination is holding back economic growth in the U.S., noting that nearly half of LGBTQ people are still closeted at work.
- The World Economic Forum found that country-level inclusion of LGBTQ people predicts both talent and innovation.
Surveys of travelers and convention professionals demonstrate that nondiscrimination is increasingly necessary for an active tourism market. Discriminatory policies can have a detrimental effect on travel and tourism by decreasing the attractiveness of an area to event planners and potential visitors. Some organizations will choose to avoid locations with controversial laws in order to avoid the appearance of approval of the public policy. And since 2016, virtually all major meeting and convention planners have required no-penalty cancellation clauses in their contracts if a host state should pass an anti-LGBTQ law before the event is held.
Passage of state nondiscrimination laws can ensure that the tourism industry in the state in question is competitive for meetings, conventions, sporting events, and leisure tourism. A federal nondiscrimination law would eliminate the competitive disadvantage entirely from states without nondiscrimination laws, leveling the playing field for tourism business.
Talent considerations are a major driver of corporate investment, expansion, and relocation decisions. State nondiscrimination protections provide a competitive advantage for corporate investment, and a federal law would even the playing field on this front.
- Fort Worth, Texas officials said that Facebook executives “studied the city’s (LGBTQ-inclusive) non-discrimination ordinances” before announcing a new $1 billion data center investment in 2015 (Fort Worth has a fully LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance in place)
- GE called Georgia Governor Deal’s 2016 veto of a “first amendment defense act” “definitely pertinent” to the decision to locate its $3m, 250-job digital HQ in Atlanta: “…we would be hard-pressed to set up operations any place that discriminated on any basis,” said Jim Fowler, GE’s chief information officer
Businesses that operate across multiple states currently face a patchwork of nondiscrimination laws, from individual municipal ordinances to 21 states with comprehensive, inclusive nondiscrimination laws in place. This patchwork creates unnecessary regulatory and operational difficulties for businesses. In terms of talent and operations, businesses leaders report instances of employees raising concerns when they are asked to move from one state to another, if such a move would expose the employee and their family to discrimination in a city or state without protections in place.
CASE STUDY: NORTH CAROLINA
North Carolina’s HB 2 law – which banned transgender people from using restrooms in public schools, universities and government buildings –gained national headlines. But a growing body of evidence makes it clear that there’s more than just headlines and political posturing – the law has cost North Carolina more than $600 million in publicly reported lost revenue since it was enacted:
- The Charlotte Chamber estimated that the law cost the region approximately $285 million by May 2016 – just two months after enactment.
- PayPal withdrew a planned investment from North Carolina – costing the state hundreds of jobs and at least $4 million in investments.
- Deutsche Bank also canceled an expansion into the Tar Heel State, costing $27 million and 250 jobs.
- The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates the law has cost their region north of $40 million as of summer 2016.
- Greensboro has lost about $6 million from conferences that have relocated, while Asheville estimates losses around $2 million.
- CoStar relocated a planned research operations center to Richmond, Virginia rather than Charlotte – specifically because of HB 2. The missed opportunity cost Charlotte 730 jobs and approximately $250 million in investments.
- The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority estimates the NBA’s removal of the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte cost the region at least $100 million in lost revenue.
- The NCAA relocated seven championship games, which officials in Greensboro expect cost them more than $16 million, while officials in Cary estimate they’d lose around $2.5 million.
- The ACC pulled its title game and six other championships from North Carolina, costing Charlotte as much as $30 million based on revenue from the 2015 game.
CASE STUDY: TEXAS
The Texas business community has consistently made it clear that discriminatory legislation that targets the LGBTQ community runs contrary to their values and creates unnecessary risk to Texas’ flourishing economy. One of many examples is the 2017 Texas bathroom bill:
- The Texas Association of Business – the state chamber of commerce – commissioned an economic impact study that found that anti-LGBTQ legislation would cost Texas $1.04 billion in loss of conference and capital investments through 2026, with an additional $4.1 billion at potential risk, and an additional $450 million in sporting event losses
- An independent study by Waco, TX economist Ray Perryman found that a so-called “bathroom law” would result in a travel and tourism industry loss of $5.5 billion in annual gross product and 59,600 jobs over time, with yearly losses in state revenue of $295.2 million, and a $141.1 million yearly decrease in local fiscal resource.
- In 2017, Texas tourism leaders reported that the ongoing bathroom bill debate resulted in $66 million in confirmed lost convention business, before any bill became law. If a bathroom bill had become law, those tourism leaders reported that they were poised to lose additional $1.4 billion in conventions, sports championships, and similar events
- In 2015, the Texas Association of Business opposed a broad rewriting of Texas’ existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act, on that grounds that the legislation “will certainly make our state look very much unwelcoming when it comes to business recruitment.”
At the same time, a statewide nondiscrimination law would bring massive benefits to Texas’ economy. A 2020 economic impact study found that Texas would gain hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in state and local tax revenues if it were to pass a statewide nondiscrimination law.
CASE STUDY: INDIANA
Indiana experienced an immediate and measurable economic backlash to its own anti-LGBTQ legislation, SB 101, in early 2015. That’s when Indiana lawmakers passed – and then-Governor Mike Pence signed into law – a policy that allowed for discrimination against LGBTQ people on religious grounds.
- Visit Indy reported that Indianapolis lost more than $60 million in economic opportunities, including the loss of at least 12 conventions, in the weeks before a “to the law fix” was enacted.
- Angie’s List halted a $40 million, 1,000-job corporate investment until the law was amended to ensure it could not be used to discriminate
- The state lost “millions” in hotel bookings for 2018, resulting in a $12 million tax revenue decline
- The measure also generated an estimated 1 billion negative social media impressions about the state, and some 2,500 stories in just 30 days.
- After the law’s enactment, the Indiana Economic Development Coalition found that nearly 83 percent of economic investment commitments and 58 percent of new high-wage jobs were awarded to municipalities with ordinances that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.
CASE STUDY: OKLAHOMA
Oklahoma’s 2016 attempt to pass a “bathroom bill” resulted in swift, bipartisan backlash:
- The Tulsa and Oklahoma City chambers of commerce stated that “passage of SB 1619 would halt growth and success in our states tourism and economic development efforts, causing significant and immediate revenue losses.”
- The debate over the bill contributed to $50.9 million worth of bad publicity about the state, according to a report commissioned by the Tulsa Regional Chamber
CASE STUDY: ARIZONA
In 2013, the Arizona legislature passed a “religious refusal” bill, SB 1062. Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the bill in 2014 the face of the economic evidence:
- Economists estimated the tourism damage from the bill would have been more than $140 million in lost meetings and conventions in the first three years
- State tourism leaders worried that the Super Bowl – an event with a $500 million impact – was on the line after the NFL expressed concern over the measure
CASE STUDY: VIRGINIA
- In 2020, Virginia became the 21st state and the first state in the South to enact a comprehensive, inclusive nondiscrimination law.
- More than 30 major employers backed the law, saying: “Passing a comprehensive nondiscrimination law isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s crucial to the state economy. Because many LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ workers prefer to live and work in communities with nondiscrimination protections, such a law will give Virginia’s employers tangible advantages in recruitment and retention. An environment with equal opportunities for all will also encourage new investments, attract tourism dollars, and empower all Virginians to realize their full potential.”